Putin’s €50,000 earrings for former Austrian FM spark controversy

Two sapphires weighing in at almost 23 grams in white gold had been part of the gifts the Russian president brought with him to the wedding of Austria’s then leading politician, alongside a Samovar, a Don Cossack Choir, and flowers. [Kremlin pool/EPA/EFE]

Russian President Vladimir Putin gifted €50,000 sapphire earrings to Austria’s former far-right Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl, who hosted the Russian strongman at her wedding in 2018, a report by daily newspaper Krone has revealed.

Two sapphires weighing in at almost 23 grams in white gold had been part of the gifts the Russian president brought with him to the wedding of Austria’s then leading politician, alongside a Samovar, a Don Cossack Choir, and flowers.

According to Krone, Kneissl fought her ministry fiercely for ownership of the earrings. While the ministry claimed that the earrings were state property, Kneissl said they had been a personal gift.

Eventually, the matter was apparently settled through a perpetual loan agreement where Kneissl’s eventual heirs would return the earrings to the Austrian government upon her death.

However, Kneissl kept disputing the arrangement, claiming that the contract was akin to a “noose.” According to the Foreign Ministry, the earrings have been in a vault in the Republic since February 2020, Krone reported.

The leak of internal messages from the foreign ministry comes when Austria is dealing with deep-seated economic, social and political entanglements of Russia’s oligarchs in society’s upper crust.

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